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Making the Great Plains, Great Again

Two weeks ago I was on a beautiful cattle ranch in the middle of Nebraska.  One man, Chad Peterson, has transformed 4000 acres from a sandy sparse grass land to a lush verdant range land, with springs and creeks and beautiful lakes full of fish spawning.  His land is full of wild life, birds, frogs, elk, etc.  This ranch stands in huge contrast to the neighboring land.  How was this possible?

A good article that hits on some of the points is in Time online – highlighting some of the ideas that Chad has put to work.   The whole point of putting cattle back on the land in mass is to mimic the range lands of 500 years ago when the bison and buffalo, elk,  wolves, cats, etc roamed the prairies.  There was a natural predator/prey relationship.  Herds hung out together defending from the predators moving along as a large group to protect its weak and young from the cats or wolves.  This in turn forced an intense grazing where they stood at any given moment.  The herd ate the grass down to low levels, but they also (if you pardon the expression) shat where they ate.  The herds rarely stayed in one spot very long and moved on trampling down anything that wasn’t eaten.  The combination of the the manure and the left over crushed plants created a base for the soil to replenish and grow beautiful lush grass again.  This in turn creates and builds soils that retain, water and CO2.  And, as in Chads case, over the course of 10 years he has created a beautiful natural system that defies its neighboring ranches.

This seemingly simple and obvious system was never really understood until Alan Savory documented it and wrote about it in his book Holistic Management.  Even today, people like Chad Peterson are considered on the fringe and a little crazy.  Crazy like a fox.  His land is invaluable.  America needs to rediscover this system and put it to use all over the country. Get rid of our feed lot system for raising cattle and raise healthy cattle on grass and restore our range lands to their former glory.

Still skeptical?  Here are even more benefits of this system:

What if I told you that the current cattle feedlot system requires 20x  more energy than the grass fed system.  The land is there; the grass,  sun and water are free and it takes only one person to manage 1000 head of cattle.  There is no waste product to dispose of and  limited methane due to the grass diet.  No drugs, no antibiotics, rarely medicinal help. The cattle live a long healthy life.

Contrast this to the feed lot system – the food is grown corn (planted, harvested and trucked in), the water is brought in,  the manure runs into collection pools that ferment, the cattle are dosed in antibiotics to tolerate the squalid conditions they live in. And the cattle need to be slaughtered early in their life or they will die from all sorts of aliments from the food they eat or the environment that they live in.  Oh, and the land they live on is a giant cesspool.

Which system would you want to own, operate or eat from?

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